A kettlebell is a kettlebell is a kettlebell. They are all the same – balls of weight with a handle on top. But that is not strictly true. In fact, it isn’t even remotely true.
To the untrained eye, kettlebells may certainly appear to all be similar, but as a market leader and authority on the subject, we would like to explain the seemingly minor differences that can have a major impact between the two most common types of kettlebell – Competition Kettlebells and Cast Iron Kettlebells.
Here is the quick version…
Kettlebell Sport, if you are not already aware, there is a well-established and rapidly growing section of the kettlebell community that prepares for and competes in competitions around the world.
This is often referred to as ‘Kettlebell Sport’ (or ‘Girevoy Sport’ in Russian). Competitors compete in weight classifications, performing as many repetitions as possible in a set amount of time – which is almost always 10-minutes.
There are three events that are most common – the snatch (one KB in one hand and one changeover is permitted during the 10-minutes), the jerk (one KB in each hand throughout) and the Long Cycle (either with one KB in one hand and one changeover or with one KB in each hand throughout) which is a clean and a jerk combined. Kettlebell Sport is as enjoyable and addictive as it is challenging and gruelling.
Performing any exercise repeatedly for 10-minutes is tricky, let alone when it includes keeping two 32kg Kettlebells off the floor, so it shouldn’t need to be pointed out that Kettlebell Sport competitors require a very specific tool for their task.
Competition Kettlebells are all made from one single piece of steel using the same sized cast, meaning that they are all exactly the same size, manufactured to specific dimensions set by the Sport’s governing body (Height 280mm, Base Diameter 140mm, Diameter 210mm and Handle Diameter 33 or 35mm dependant on the governing body).
Not only does this ensure that competitors have consistency throughout the world, but it also ensures that the technique can remain identical and the Kettlebell will sit in the same position on the forearm as the lifter moves up or down throughout the weights.
In a set that lasts 10-minutes efficiency and consistency are key. If the dimensions between two weights or two venues were different then any small variations could wreak havoc with the output.
Due to the fact that they are all the same size, the best way to easily differentiate between one weight and another is simple colour coding.
Therefore, to make it easier to identify how much a kettlebell weighs from a distance, competition kettlebells adopt a universal colour coding system as follows; Pink 8kg, Blue, 12kg, Yellow 16kg, Purple 20kg, Green 24kg, Orange 28kg, Red 32kg, Grey 36kg, White 40kg, Silver 44kg and Gold 48kg.
Competition Kettlebells are designed for single-hand use only. The handle is slightly narrower making it almost impossible to get two hands onto the handle unless you have very small hands.
This makes them less appropriate for beginners learning to perform basic two-handed drills such as swings or deadlifts.
Finally, Competition Kettlebells were not designed with the intention of being able to perform floor-based drills with them, but one of the great side-effects of their dimensions is the wide and flat base which makes them perfect for Renegade Rows, Push-Ups, Walking Planks and Dips etc.
Cast Iron Kettlebells
Cast Iron Kettlebells are commonly made from one single piece of Iron, but they use a different sized cast for each weight meaning that these Kettlebells will be bigger as they get heavier.
That isn’t a bad thing, but it means that the Kettlebell will sit in a different position on the forearm as the weight increases/decreases, making Cast Iron Kettlebells more suitable for more traditional set/rep protocols than endurance events.
There are no rules regarding the colours of Cast Iron Kettlebells, but they are often powder-coated black or ‘iron’ coloured. It is not uncommon for them to have a coloured neoprene covering but the colours used for each weight can vary from one manufacturer to another.
Cast Iron handles tend to be wider and more curved than Competition handles, making it easier to get two hands onto one handle, and the diameter of the Cast Iron handles is often thicker than 33.5mm. This added thickness will fatigue your grip sooner so it will be easier to perform a lower number of reps than a higher number.
The base of a Cast Iron Kettlebell is more likely to be smaller than the Competition Kettlebells meaning that they are not quite as stable when performing floor-based drills.
Competition Kettlebells are great for those competing in competitions, whereas Cast Iron Kettlebells are great for those who aren’t. There are pro’s and con’s for both styles but these depend on your intended use of the Kettlebell.
One thing is for sure, a Cast Iron Kettlebell made from joining two different parts should be avoided at all costs and you shouldn’t need us to explain the dangers of the two parts separating halfway through an explosive exercise.
Some manufacturers even churn out plastic/vinyl kettlebells and/or ‘quirky’ shaped kettlebells that they claim to serve some purpose – the less said about these the better.
Although different styles of Kettlebell appear to be similar, they are definitely NOT the same. We hope that this guide has given you some useful information which you can use to make your next purchase.
Yes, we manufacture and sell what we believe to be high-quality and well-priced Kettlebells, but you can also find similar products at Eleiko, Rogue, Bulldog Gear and BLK BOX Fitness. Similar to ours...but not the same.
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